What Is MY Style?

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Last week I mulled over the idea that I was in a style rut and whether that was necessarily a bad thing. Thank you so much for your responses it looks like my ponderings have struck a chord so I thought I would start exploring further.

I wanted to have a go at really trying to define “My Style”. What we wear is almost a subconscious decision most of the time, you just grab what’s the easiest thing and go.  And I know that our preferences change with influences from the media and over time, but there must still be some core principles that remain true.

To help I went over the worksheet set by Colette in their Wardrobe Architect series to try and solidify what I think and feel about what I wear.  

And here are some of my answers…

History

I was always a bit of a Tomboy and had an equal love for a pair of favourite red corduroy dungarees and disdain for dresses and skirts. I also spent quite a few ‘fashion’ years just wearing black!

Philosophy

No longer a slave to fashion, I prefer to acknowledge the trends I like and enjoy but I’d much rather just be relaxed and easygoing about what I wear.

Culture

There are no real cultural aesthetics that I can draw on, or that restrict me in what I choose to wear. Or so I thought until I started chatting things over with The Bearded One. He reminded me that I was brought up in a reasonable affluent, mainly white, semi rural environment that wasn’t overly concerned with appearance, so maybe that has had more of an influence than I want to admit? 

Activities

I walk or cycle to work everyday and as I can no longer wear heels, practical shoes are the order of the day, usually brogues or trainers.

Location

Stratford upon Avon where I live is a semi rural town in the middle of England. So I am in the middle a bit in terms of Urbane Sleek and Country Chic.

Body

This category more than any other affects how I feel about myself and what influences the decisions I make about what to wear. I am no longer 25 years old or a size 10 and quite frankly, I have no wish to be. I am carrying more weight than I would like and no longer have a waist. Not that I ever really did. Well I had a flat stomach in my youth but I never really went ‘in’ at the waist. Which has led me to become more of an apple shape now in my middling years. However, I am pleased to admit that my arms and legs are still not bad!

I am planning on reviving my running routine this year, as part of an overall strategy to regain some control over aspects of my life and I am hoping that this will help to alter my body image and maybe even my shape as well. So I don’t mind exposing my arms and legs, as long as the rest of me is covered up.

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Although this exercise didn’t really tell me anything I wasn’t already aware of I felt it was a good exercise to do to ‘just get it all down on paper’ (which is a strategy I am relying more and more upon to gain clarity on a whole range of things).

 

Why don’t you try it and see if it gives you some clarity too? You can print off the Worksheet and have a go.

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Image taken from my Pinterest board and full credits can be found there. Link below.

Colette also suggested trying to come up with some descriptions of how you feel when you wear things you like and what would make you feel uncomfortable.

I want to feel…

Confident – being confident in what you wear allows you to think about other more important stuff.

Comfortable – comfort is a KEY element for me and directly linked to confidence

Natural – I want to look fresh and healthy

Timeless – Yves Saint Laurent said “Fashions fade, style is eternal.” So although I know my preferences will change over time, I still want to look current.

Quirky – the grown up version of rebellious, I think. I don’t need to shock anymore, but I do like to make people do a double take sometimes with something just a little bit out of the ordinary.

 

I don’t want to be…

Frumpy – Obviously!

Girly or cute – Frankly I’m too old and it doesn’t suit my cranky nature!

Fussy – Detail is fine, but I much prefer an uncluttered look.

“Done Up” – I like to look like I’ve made an effort but I feel really uncomfortable with too much make-up or styling.

“Shrunk wrapped” – Going back to the Body section previously, anything that is too body hugging, even with the right underwear, is just not me. I love the look of body-con dresses,  but they just make me feel self conscious. Although if I keep up the running who knows?!

 

I know I have used a couple of made up phrases here, but I hope you get my meaning. Also having a few ‘trigger’ words that you can be aware of when you’re thinking about your core style can help you decide if a shape or style is really you. Again there is a Wardrobe Architect Worksheet to help.

I came up with  5 words that I can use as a sort of filter to sift through pattern or design ideas when trying to define my own Style.

 

Simple         Cosy        Practical         Natural       Individual

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What 5 words would you use to describe your own style? I’d love to know so please add your words in the comment below.

I also have a Pinterest board with a few things that I feel define My Style of the moment, and actually I want it all! Have a look and let me know what you think.

Jules

Can You Have Too Much Of A Good Thing?

 

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I made myself a dress the other day, not much odd in that you might think. After all I do run a sewing shop and teach all stuff sewing too. I do have to confess to not actually making many things for myself at the moment, but when I do it is usually one of a couple of things.

Either a Helena dress of which I now have 6 or the new soon to be released pocket top of which I also have 6. You might notice a theme here?

In fact I went through the front half of my wardrobe which is basically all of the clothes I have worn over the last 6 months and to be honest nearly 90% of the outfits I wear consist of one or both of these items.

I have been thinking a lot about this. What you wear speaks volumes about you. It screams what ‘tribe’ you belong to, what age bracket you’ve decided to fit into, your cultural background, what part of the country you’re from, all sorts of subtle and not so subtle signals sent out to let the world know who you are.

So why am I wearing the same clothes?

Coming from a ‘fashion background’ and as cliched as it might sound, everyone wore black. It was our uniform. Black went with everything, everything matched and accessorised easily. More crucially it required little thought!

So am I more like Mark Zuckerberg? In this article in the Independent he explains why he wears the exact same T shirt and jeans everyday. EVERY DAY! His point is that he cannot waste headspace debating what to wear each day when he should be thinking about more important issues. So he has a ‘uniform’ of sorts.

Do I have my own ‘uniform’? I must admit that having so many Helena dresses makes it dead easy to get dressed in the morning.

Helena + skinny jeans + long sleeved T + boots + scarf = Job done!

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I have enough white long sleeved T shirts to sink a battleship and everything goes with jeans.

But for self confessed creative type, am I being a bit boring? Am I copping out of the creative decision making that identifies me to the rest of the world?

Am I in a STYLE RUT?

Have you made tonnes of the same thing? Do you wear similar clothes all the time? Maybe 2017 is the year to quit the rut.

I want to create and sew a range of different items of clothing that I feel comfortable wearing and that reflect who I am and my own personal style. Rather than randomly making what I want, I feel there needs to be some plan, some cohesion here too, so I am focussing my time and energy in making things I know I will wear and love.

There are numerous tools out there to help you but I really enjoyed reading the Wardrobe Architect that Sarai Mitnick from Colette patterns brought out a couple of years ago.  So I will be loosely following that as I plan out what to wear and make in 2017.

If you’d like to join me on my journey try following the worksheet Colette have produced to help you in Week one – Making Style More Personal and I’ll share some of my responses too.

Jules

 

Celebrating Pyjamas

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January is a bleak month, the decorations have come down and the post Christmas diets have started, some have even signed up for a Dry January. So one of the things I really look forward to while waiting for the evenings to get lighter is to schlep around in my PJ’s.

This is why we have decided to dedicate January to All Things Pyjamas.

The word Pyjama is derived from the Hindi word paejama, which means “leg covering”. Men began wearing them around 1870’s on returning from the colonies and they became increasingly fashionable as elegant evening attire. By the 1920’s Coco Chanel had made them de rigeur for women in sophisticated silk satins and simple cotton for beach holidays. And to be honest they have never seemed to go out of fashion.

Pyjamas are an essential element to a Winter wardrobe and a necessity in colder climates. I leave mine on the radiator so that when I get home from work they are toasty warm and ready to pop on while I cook dinner. Personally I prefer a traditional Pyjama Shirt with mine but my daughter likes to wear a T shirt or camisole with hers.

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Either way the goal is comfort! You may like to read our blog on Staying Warm Skandi Style to get into the spirit of Hygge January.

There is also 25% off our Rosalind Pyjama Pattern for the whole of January so you can whip up a pair of PJ’s as quick as you like.

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We will also be sharing tutorials and pattern hacks with you so you can make the most of your PJ’s and indulge in the warm and comforting embrace of a pair of handmade Pyjamas.

Have a look at the Clean Finish Binding Tutorial we’ve used on the Peaseblossom if you fancy making a different top for your PJ’s

Happy New Year Sewing!

Jules

Calling New Pattern Testers!

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Part of the plans we have for 2017 is to improve the processes and systems we have in place for producing our patterns. One of the tasks we have set ourselves is to increase the range of pattern testers we have in addition to the local ones in Stratford that help us out.

So if you’d like to be involved in helping us to make even better patterns please get in touch. We are not just looking for standard sized people but anyone who is interested in sewing – all shapes and sizes, skill levels and experience.

Let us know your email address and we will send you a Pattern Tester Info Form so we know all about you – what size you make, what your level of sewing is, whether you’ve pattern tested before, that kind of thing. You will receive a free copy, paper or PDF, of the final pattern as well as another pattern of your choice. We can also link back to your own website or blog when we promote the final pattern.

We have a very quick turnaround for the first pattern to be tested. With images and feedback to be returned to us by 22nd January. So that should give you just under three weeks to find the fabric, make up the pattern and send us your feedback. But it is a very quick pattern to put together!

Don’t worry if you can’t work around this particular time scale. Let us know if you’re interested in other patterns and we can let you know when we have the next one ready for testing.

I hope you can join the team and help us to make our patterns easier to make up and clearer to follow.

Thank you

Jules

Goodbye 2016 – Hello 2017

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With 2016 drawing to a close, and some saying “good riddance”, we start looking forward to the days getting longer and the new challenges we can face in 2017.

Will it be the year you choose to enhance or progress your sewing skills? Or will you find other challenges to set yourself?

2016 has been an odd year to say the least. For me personally a mix of highs – my best friend getting married, and lows – the loss of so many wonderfully talented people – David Bowie, Alan Rickman and most recently Carrie Fisher. But the end of a year brings with it a time to look back and evaluate what’s happened, how we reacted to it and also how we can adapt and move on positively into the New Year.

The break we’ve had over Christmas and New year with the store being closed has provided me with the time I needed for a bit of quiet reflection.

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The Bearded One and I have worked exceptionally hard this year on a large project that neither of us quite realised would take the time and energy it has. However, The Book that we have been working on is now complete, well our part in it is now complete, it’s off being printed and will be available at the beginning of April 2017. (We are hoping to get advance copies for the Sewing for Pleasure Show at the NEC in March.) I am still not quite sure what to make of it yet. It’s a bit fresh and I’m still a bit too close to the process to fully appreciate what we have achieved.

A friend, who has written several books, described it as being a bit like having a baby. You’re excited in the beginning at the prospect of this amazing adventure, then the enormity of what you have signed up for hits in. Carrying on you just want it over and done with and then at the end they hand you this finished manuscript and you can’t quite believe how it got here.

It does look amazing and is full of information. I hope will be useful and informative for both those new to sewing and those who want to learn a few more techniques and processes, as well as being an aide memoire for things you’ve done before, but perhaps not for some time.

Because writing the book has taken me away from Sew Me Something a lot more than I’d hoped this year, we have only released two dressmaking pattern and two bag patterns. Nothing to be sniffed at I know but not what I was hoping for. However, as with all things there is a balance and working on the book has also provided a huge resource of information to share to help people to sew better and enjoy the process of sewing and creating.

We have also used this break to begin planning how we can use this resource and best share all this information. So there will be new patterns on their way very soon, the first next month, there will be a series of tutorials covering the techniques and processes you have asked us about and for those that can’t join us for a workshop, online courses to show you how we would do things in our own workshops so you can still learn from the comfort of your own home as if you were actually with us.

The challenges I am setting myself are to be able to deliver what I set out to. It will require organisation, commitment and discipline. If I’m completely honest not my strong points as I’m easily distracted by……ooh fabric! But then what challenges me comes easily for others. And vice versa. So what will you challenge yourself to do in 2017? Can we help you meet your sewing challenges?

Happy New Year

Jules

Peaseblossom Colour Block Pattern Hack

img_0109The Peaseblossom T is a wardrobe staple and I have quite a few of them in different fabrics and various adaptations.

The simple boxy shape lends itself to colour blocking and this is an easy to follow tutorial to show you how to adapt the pattern.

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The front and back of the Top are basically the same shape so to make life easier you can transfer the lines from the front on to the back.

I have used a coloured pen to make it easier to see but when adapting patterns yourself you should always use a really sharp pencil to ensure you’re as accurate as possible.

Decide where you want the seam line to separate the two colours. This is really up to you and the proportions of colour you want to use. I have decided to have a horizontal seam 8cm down from the front neckline. But you could also use vertical seams as well.

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Draw a line across the front at right angles to the centre front. It is very important to make sure that the new seam line hits the centre front at right angles.

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The centre front or back is a line of symmetry, so imagine a mirror reflecting whatever is on one side on to the other. If the new seam line is slightly off 90° you could end up with a ‘peak’ or ‘valley’ in the middle of the new seam line.

Peak or valley lines with dotted lines as the true horizontal.

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To make sure this doesn’t happen use a set square, quilter’s grid or specialist Patternmaster that has 90° lines on it to use as a guide.

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Transfer the seam line on to the back.

Method 1 – Lay the front pattern piece on top of the back.

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Use a tracing wheel to trace along the line and through to the back piece.

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Lift off the front and there will be the tiny prick marks made by the tracing wheel.  I have tried to show these but they are really too small.

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Use these to draw in the new seam line.

Method 2 – If the paper is thin enough lay the back over the front so you can just see the new seam line on the front through the paper of the back. Or you can mark the centre front point and the sleeve point and just join the two dots.

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Double check that the new seam line on the back hits the centre back at a right angle by using a ruler with 90° lines on it to use as a guide.

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Separate the back pattern pieces and the front pieces by cutting up the new seam lines.

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Add seam allowance on each side of the new seam lines. Add a strip of paper to each side of the new seam lines.

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The seam allowance on the Peaseblossom is 1cm so you can either continue with the same or if you prefer to use a larger seam allowance add 1.5cm.

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You can use the grading lines on a Patternmaster or quilter’s grid to make sure the seam allowance is parallel to the stitching line.

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Add in balance marks (also called notches). Match up the two front pieces with each other and add in a single balance mark or notch. This will ensure that the two pieces match up correctly when sewn together.

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Do the same for the two back pieces but use a double balance mark or notch to indicate that this is the back.

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**In pattern notation a single notch is always used for the front and a double notch for the back.

The pattern pieces are now ready to cut out and make up in your chosen fabrics.

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This is a really easy pattern hack to do just remember to keep an eye on those right angles.

If you are making your top from a woven fabric have a look at our How to Sew a Clean Finish Binding tutorial it gives a really neat finish to the neckline.

Happy sewing!

Winding Up 2016 and Winding Down For Me

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Blax the cat is chilling out with me in the garden

We are winding things up now as we head towards the end of the year at Sew Me Something. Our last workshops have run and we can begin to sort out and tidy up in the studio. The sewing machines and overlockers will be having their annual holiday service and will come back in the new year all shiny, dust free and ready to go.

It is a chance for me to wind down too. It’s been a pretty hectic year and with the shop closed for two weeks over Christmas and New Year I can finally put my feet up and sip my sloe gin!

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Homemade sloe gin

As the years have gone by working for myself, the more I have come to realise that we do need to be kinder to ourselves and to make time to wind down, chill, find a quiet space or however you want to describe the time we take to just be. Things can get a bit hairy sometimes on the modern hamster wheel of life and it can feel rather relentless.

So I have tried to build a bit of quiet time into my day and it is slowly, very slowly developing into a habit that I do not want to do without. It often isn’t at the same time every day and it can involve doing things too like getting out of the studio and going for a walk down to the river, or sitting in a cafe drinking coffee and people watching, or even 10 minutes of meditation.

At the risk of sounding like a middle aged hippy I have found listening to a meditation app* on my phone helps me to quieten the million and one things I have whizzing around my head and just allows me to ‘breathe’. Meditation takes practice and I am nowhere near being able to still my mind completely but having taken 10 minutes out to try, I can then pick up from where I left off feeling a lot calmer and more focussed on what I need to do.

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Trying to still my thoughts

In fact I did it before sitting down and writing this.

What do you do to unwind or to find a bit of peace during the day? Let me know in the comments below.

You can also subscribe to our newsletter so we can let you know what’s coming up in the new year.

*I listen to Headspace, but there are loads of other apps and ways to meditate out there.

Jules